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Misperceptions of Opossums

Mike Keeling/Flickr

Our region is home to hundreds of thousands of opossums, but for a creature so commonly found in backyards, it is the subject of many misperceptions.

One myth I often hear is that opossums and possums are the same animal. In fact, our native Virginia opossums evolved in eastern North America and were named for the Algonquian word apassum, meaning “white beast.” Possums, on the other hand, are native to Australia and named for its slim resemblance to our own animal. Our opossum is a marsupial – North America’s only one actually – and its distant relatives do include other Down Under species like kangaroos and koalas. But otherwise, the 2 species are quite different.

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